Pavlopoulos: ‘We have an obligation to resist the populist formations arising in EU countries’

President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos once again stressed the need to resist the rise of far-right populism in Europe, while speaking at a memorial service for the 4,100 captive Italian soldiers that drowned in the Saronic Gulf in February 1944, in the shipwreck of the “Oria”.

“We have a historic responsibility and a corresponding historic obligation, especially in light of the upcoming European elections, to stand up to the populist formations arising in countries of the European Union and prove to them that ‘they shall not pass,'” Pavlopoulos said.

He warned against underestimating such populist entities, noting that these had reached the point of undisguised racism that verged on nostalgia for nazism and that they were openly seeking to overthrow the European architecture, undermining the foundations of European democracy and culture.

By commemorating the dead Italian soldiers of the “Oria”, he added, “we are actively proclaiming in every direction that these crimes must, on no account, be forgotten…[since then] there is a great danger that they will be repeated.”

The deaths of the 4,100 Italian soldiers, who had been taken prisoner by the Nazis, were caused when their captors decided on February 11, 1944 to load 4,115 Italian soldiers onto the just 2.127-tonne Norwegian-flagged vessel “Oria” during extremely bad weather conditions, in order to transport them to Piraeus. The ship sank the following day during a very severe storm, near the islet Patroklos off the Attica coast, drowning nearly everyone on board.

The clear indifference shown by the Nazis for the lives of the Italian soldiers, who were sent to almost certain death, “was one more demonstration of their ruthless criminality, which resulted in inconceivable crimes against humanity during the period of nazi Germany and, especially, during WWII,” Pavlopoulos said.